October 2014

State Affairs Manager for the Americans for Tax Reform Talks Vaping Taxation

to store owners about tax policy. ECC was very exciting. Some of the issues we work on are issues that most people just do not care about, and it’s hard for an organization like ours to get people enthusiastic and fighting for a cause. With the vapor community it’s different. There’s so much enthusiasm. I don’t have to spend hours to get people to a hearing. So, I can focus more on the policy side of things. It’s much more fun.

VAPE News: What is the plan after regulations in regard to taxation?

Blair: I think in the last year and half 16 states tried to order a serious legislation to tax e-cigs and e-liquids. Minnesota increased from 75 to 95 percent this year. We oppose all excise tax in general. My vision of success is that only the sales tax is proposed. It’s not a tobacco product. You have a lot of legislators saying that tobacco revenue is declining, so they have to figure out how to make revenue. We would say cut spending. I think next year we’ll see about 15 states to consider taxations. States usually figure out what the tobacco cost is, so they figure out what the cost equivalent is to e-cig or e-liquid, and that’s where you get the wholesale cost. That’s also where you see the uneducation. They don’t see the health impact, and they don’t see how it will cripple the potential growth to the industry. All you are going to do is chase all the business online or a company will relocate to another state. So, that state (that imposed the extra tax) will lose sales tax revenue.

VAPE News: Sounds like a grim future.

Blair: The future is grim only because legislators are so misinformed about positive economical potential on the state. What they have going for them is small business owners and consumer enthusiasm. If we have enough of those conversations of people directly going in and saying you will put 200 people out of business or lose jobs due to this it will help, but I ‘m not sure we are there yet. Minnesota has a 95 percent wholesale tax currently. North Carolina has five cents per one ml of e-liquid.

VAPE News: Do you have any advice for business owners and/or consumers who want to talk to legislators? What’s their best course of action?

Blair: No. 1 they should get tied up with CASAA, SAFTA or the Vaping Militia. It’s always important to understand the motives behind legislators taking up these bills. For most of them it’s revenue; they see declined revenue from tobacco. If there’s anyone addicted to smoking, it’s state legislators. The economic argument is very strong, even to democrats who are traditionally supportive of public health concerns. The reality is that not a single person has died as a result of using e-cigarettes properly to date. You can’t say that about cigarettes. While there may be setbacks, there aren’t enough to dissuade people from seeking a healthier alternative.

Paul Blair has inserted himself into the world of vaping in a way that might make one chuckle—through tax reform. After going to college in Washington D.C. and interning in the Americans for Tax Reform (atr.org) office, he is a self-professed political junkie who made it to Miami, and now ECC, in hopes to represent tax payers. Even though the EDM music was bit loud, he didn’t waste a second talking to ECC consumers and businesses about what taxation on vaping paraphernalia could to do them.

VAPE News: How did you get involved with the Americans for Tax Reform?

Blair: I interned here in college and worked on some social media efforts regarding taxpayer protection plans. It’s a written commitment to oppose all efforts to oppose taxes. I think we’ve got 241 house of reps and 41 senators in congress and a little over 1,200 at the state level who have signed the pledge. I transitioned into state government affairs and worked on government reform, increasing tax issues. We have an organization that opposes all tax raises. We represent taxpayers and the philosophical side of things. It’s been a fun revolution of issues for me as a political junkie.

VAPE News: Do you vape?

Blair: I have tried it. I have two devices on my desk right now. I’m not a smoker. I’ve been to a couple of events and tried 30 to 40 flavors. I’m a hardcore supporter and have enjoyed a number of flavors I’ve tried out. It’s interesting—if you don’t vape at a number of these conventions they are like, ‘What’s wrong with you?’ It helps to understand what an atomizer is and how to reassemble a mod, so you need to learn the language. I’ve self taught the basic elementary components and lingo, so when I’m talking about policy I know what I’m talking about. It’s been much more helpful in my efforts. It’s interesting as well; there’s not a universal set of terms and names for products. It’s different names for everything in cases. In letters to legislators, when talking about the difficulty in taxing these components, it’s difficult because even the industry doesn’t have set jargon for everything.

VAPE News: What were your thoughts on ECC?

Blair: It was awesome. The first convention I went to was the World Vapor Expo in Miami. It was really my first in depth look into the industry, and I think I had only seen a vapor device once. For many people the knowledge of the industry is cigalikes. Maybe only one at a convention is that. So, I really understood more where the market is at with the tax and regulatory aspect. I was in the tent and it was somewhat amusing. Every other booth had a DJ playing very loud EDM,
and you can barely see 10 ft. in front of you, and I’m talking